***I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.***
Sing for Me by Gracie Madison
Published: January 21st, 2015 by Tika Lake Publishing
Genres: New adult, paranormal romance, fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Violence, sex, kidnapping, death
Pages: 371 pgs.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Madeline Noel fled war-torn Heaven to hide within the mortal world, but the blessing that could protect her from evil is the holy realm’s forbidden power.
As a talented soprano for the Eden Theatre Company, Madeline hides among prima donnas and tone-deaf flutists. Her perfect voice may entertain audiences, but a careless laugh may shatter glass, and her greatest scream can kill. To control her unrestrained voice, the angels forbid Madeline from embracing the emotions that strengthen her song. Anger. Fear.
The demon-hunter Damascus vows to defend Madeline from Hell’s relentless evil, but he cannot protect her from her own feelings. Though they deny their dangerous attraction, her guardian becomes her greatest temptation.
Surrendering to desire may awaken the gift suppressed within Madeline’s soul, and neither Heaven nor Hell will allow such absolute power to exist.
I’ve never been one to ever call myself a religious woman, but I can say with confidence that these angels definitely need Jesus. Not only do I suggest it in a “wow, there’s some crazy debauchery going on here” way, but also in a “wow, Jesus’ story was far more interesting” way. While there were some elements of Gracie Madison’s Sing For Me that absolutely deserved heavenly praise, overall, I feel like the notes it tried to hit were quite flat.
In Sing For Me, Madeline Noel has the divine talent of vocal mastery; at her home in the Realm — Heaven, for the uninitiated — she is known as a Choir, a type of angel made specifically for the creation and enjoyment of music. However, after the recent threat of betrayal to the Realm, all Choirs have been cast to Earth to hide from their doom, yet a fallen angel has been systematically picking off all of the Choirs he can find, with Madeline being next in line. She thought she found solace in the opera house in which she performs, but is eventually found. It’s up to Madeline, her protector and forbidden lover Damascus and a few other heavenly soldiers to make sure that she’s not the next of her sisters to perish.
What I ended up enjoying about the book are how some of the characters are fully fleshed-out with interesting development arcs. As to be expected, Madeline goes through one as she gradually learns the truth about not only her place and powers as a Choir, but she goes from only letting herself shine onstage to not being afraid to stand up against some of the darker creatures. Furthermore, Natalie follows a similar path while she comes out further behind the curtain and takes on a more dominating role not only in the opera’s production, but also within the course of her own destiny. It’s always nice to see characters naturally come to their own over the course of the story rather than them remain stagnant, or go through some contrived changes.
Actually, I mostly kid regarding my opening statements about these characters needing divine intervention. I also thought it was an interesting choice to show angels with an edge to them, rather than portraying them as these perfect creatures. These angels cursed, drank, and got seriously busy. I’m an advocate for all three, damn it! Granted, I don’t usually find myself gravitating toward angel and demon stories because I’m scared they’re going to turn preachy — which is not a slight at all to religious readers; it’s just not my cup of tea. Seeing these supposedly pure, holy characters get involved in some raucous things felt like drinking a nice glass of sweet tea on a hot summer’s day: refreshing.
Yet there are quite a few aspects of the book that just totally took me out of the action, which is definitely not a good sign. For the entirety of the book, we’re told that if Madeline uses her voice for anything other than singing, or if she doesn’t maintain total control over her emotions, she’s going to be severely punished by the Realm for breaking Holy Law. Additionally, when Madeline accidentally uses her powers by over-emoting, things around her aren’t consistently affected. In some parts, a small gasp can either shatter a tiny compact mirror or cause all of the light bulbs in a room to burst. Sometimes even feeling the emotion, not even expressing it, can cause things around her to break. I can’t decide if Madison wanted to show how dangerous her powers could truly be, or if she was just randomly choosing things around Madeline that could act as a quick flare of drama. Eventually, once she learns exactly what she can do, she throws caution to the wind and starts madly using her powers in a myriad ways. What happened to facing retribution? If the Thrones are so strict about her powers, why aren’t we shown that? I’m not a fan of authors staying inconsistent with the rules of the world in which they’ve created, and here we have Madeline doing just that.
Going along that same train of thought, both Madeline and Damascus did some things — including each other — that was supposed to condemn them to death. I know that they’re the protagonists and their story is supposed to have some kind of conflict that moves the plot along, but why create said conflict to have built-in consequences, yet not see the characters face the music, so to speak? It only makes these characters come off as Mary-Sues who have everything bend and contort to fit their needs. Damascus even goes so far as to go to the Thrones to say he raped Madeline (which he didn’t actually, thank God), but he only gets rewarded? What in the actual hell?
And that segues perfectly into my next point. Even though Madeline, as previously stated, goes through a nice little arc of progression, her story ultimately boils down to being used as a pawn for a whole bunch of manpain. Corinth wants to kill her so he can show how powerful he is and ultimately become a god. Damascus’ sole focus and motivation is proving to himself that he’s this great protector so all Madeline has to do is sit back and wait for him. I felt like, for a story that advertises itself as being focused around the girl’s progression and struggle, all we learn is that these girls don’t really get agency of their own. The Choirs have historically been nothing more than little trinkets to be collected — which Madeline does realize, don’t get me wrong — but at the end of it all, nothing’s really being done to lift up and empower the remaining Choirs. Everything’s left to Damascus to handle, with some assistance from Madeline now that she’s been a little bit awakened to stronger powers.
Sing For Me definitely showed me that there are many different approaches to telling the classic angels vs. demons story. I enjoyed the edgier take on angels, showing them as far more human than previous interpretations I’ve seen. I’m also pleased with some of the paths in which some of the characters took throughout the course of the story. However, there’s a lot of inconsistency going on with world-building, especially when it comes to laws and the powers of the characters. I also don’t like how this ultimately became a huge power struggle between a whole gaggle of men when the story’s focus should have always been on Madeline and her inner conflict, as it was advertised.
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